Archives for category: life in general

  
     One of the greatest scenes in any movie, ever, is where Rudy is carried off the field by his teammates. Arms raised high, crowd going wild, a young man’s wildest dream being lived out. He didn’t make the game-winning play, he didn’t break any records. In fact, it was the first game he had ever even played in. Yet, those two hands, thrusted towards the heavens, sums up what I think lives in all of us. We’ll come back to Rudy in a minute. 

     My whole life, possibly to a fault, I’ve been a dreamer. I think it’s where my oldest daughter gets it from. Let me share some of my never-spoken-out loud “Fantasy Land” moments. I’ve dreamed of seeing my artwork in a museum, selling for ridiculous amounts of money to people with bad taste. I’ve dreamed of getting contacted because someone wants to feature my blogs or videos globally. I’ve dreamed of filling a youth room with 400 students every week, hearing life-changing sermons. I’ve dreamed of being asked to speak at high-level conferences around the U.S. 

    Probably the biggest dream was music. Even at 6 years old, I saw myself playing on stages reminiscent of a Foo-Fighters concert. Big lights, roadies, songs on the radio that everyone knew. This one is actually a little embarrassing, but ironically not many people will read this, so no biggie. I used to imagine getting a song I wrote for my nephew picked up and recorded by some big time artist. It would go number one, I would be nominated for “song of the year” and would win. I even went as far as to picture the red dress my wife would wear as we both sobbed at the amazement of winning. The speech, the tears, the award held high as I gave God the glory. Yep… It’s true. I would play that scene over and over in my head, for years. 

For some reason, I truly believed it could all happen. But so far, no emails, phone calls, letters in the mail or invitations. 

    PLEASE, don’t misunderstand my heart here. Yes, I have many things to cheer about. Unbelievably amazing children who love the Lord and live with integrity and strength. A marriage that fights through trials and tribulations to someone WAY out of my league. The list goes on and on and I treasure those. But I’m talking about those ridiculous, seemingly unattainable dreams that you would almost be embarrassed to tell people about (like I just did for some reason). 

    Now back to Rudy. Rudy was the most unlikely person to play football on the Notre Dame field. He was undersized, underrated and underappreciated even after years of being on the practice team. He stuck in there, always believing it could somehow happen, even if unlikely. And somehow, he saw his lifelong dream come to life in front of thousands of fans; most who never knew he existed. 

    Rudy was the only player in Notre Dame history to ever be carried off the field by his team. The crowd cheered his name, the stadium was electric… all for him. But, and here’s the heart of this whole blog, that’s not why Rudy has his hands in the air. It wasn’t about everyone noticing or recognizing him. It wasn’t about having his name fill the air or being the superstar of the day. It was simply a declaration of one personal message,

“I did it!”

    That scene is the backdrop to my own dreams. For me, it’s not about the fame, the prestige or the superstar moments. Those things are shallow and fleeting. It’s simply, despite seemingly unattainable moments and “Fantasy Land” dreams, being able to raise my hands up and say, “I did it”! It’s really just for myself. The personal victory. 

    I bet you have those dreams too. Maybe you’d never say them out loud or post them in a blog, but you have em’. Dare to dream! It’s what keeps us alive inside! It’s what keeps me thinking today may be the day I get the call or email. Dream big, dream often and maybe one day you’ll be carried off the proverbial field, hands held high saying,

“I did it”! 

PS, if you have not seen this movie, do yourself a huge favor and change that!

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”  –  Walt Disney

Ephesians 3:20 “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams.”

Advertisements

It was an average, casual Monday. Staff meeting in the morning, drove my daughter to the airport to fly back to college, came home and did some youth ministry work. Cooked some glorious steaks on my brand new grill, watched some TV, brushed my teeth and headed to bed. And then it happened. For the third time in five days, an excruciating pain in my abdomen. A pain that previously lasted about two hours, went away and I would go back to sleep. But this was different. The pain didn’t let up and I found myself laying on the living room floor, texting my wife upstairs that it was time to head to the ER.

“Mr. Henning, your gallbladder has to come out.” Excuse me, “come out”? I had never had a surgery in my life! My nurse-wife and everyone else informed me it’s a common procedure. Yank it out, home usually the next day with some additional time of rest. Right. Not exactly how it went for me.

A long list of complications landed me 5 days in the hospital.

When home, I was talking to a close friend of mine about all of it and how strange it was to be totally out of control of everything. He asked, “And what did you learn from that?”

I knew he was prodding for some deep spiritual response, maybe some kind of epiphany I had in my downtime. My answer… “Nothing”. At that moment I was aggravated, annoyed and inconvenienced by this needless speed bump in my life. By doctor’s orders, I couldn’t go to the gym for 5 weeks. 5 WEEKS!!!!! No driving, no picking stuff up, no nothing! Not to mention, worst of all, I had a youth retreat I was leading, happening in one week! I do not have time for this!

But after the dust settled, I DID learn something. Something kind of cool.

While in the hospital, I prayed, but I never had a “Dear Jesus, please protect me, please watch me, please give the doctors wisdom, please… “, (anything else scared people about to have surgery pray for) moment. Might be unusual behaviour from a Pastor, but here’s my “epiphany” on it all. Mike, listen up, here it is.

I realized, with some excitement, the state of my faith, the level of our relationship, God and I. You see, through the whole process, my wife was by my side. I never had to beg her to stay with me, to help me, to look out for my best interest. Because of her love for me and her history of never leaving my side, I just… knew. I could be assured of her presence even if I didn’t request it.

It was the same for me and the Lord. I guess I didn’t feel the need to go into panic-prayer mode because I just knew. I knew He was just as present at the hospital as He is when I’m at home writing sermons. He was just as present when my organs were being ripped out as He is when I’m cleaning the garage. Whether I begged Him or not, because I was His child, He never turned his head from the situation at hand.

That’s a pretty good feeling. I think too many people, even heartfelt Christians, trade the truth of an omni-present God for an “emergency present” God. One who seems to respond more to hospital prayers than everyday cares.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not insinuating that those moments of panic-prayer aren’t normal or even necessary. Even the greatest heroes of Scripture rang God’s doorbell in their darkest and most frightening moments. Chances are I’ll have a few more of those in the future myself.

What I’m trying to say is it’s important to remember the depth of truth in Psalm 139:7 “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” As crucial as prayer is in the life of a believer, We don’t always have to push the call button to be tended to. He’s already there.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

20140301-204059.jpg

Yesterday morning I did what could’ve been one of the coolest things I’ve ever gotten to do. My nephew plays on a special needs baseball team each Saturday morning, along with some amazing athletes. During the season, my family and I do our best to catch as many of their games as we can. Nothing beats watching them cheer each other on and pour their hearts into every play. That’s another tear-jerker blog for another day.

Last season, I joked about bringing up my sound system and playing “big league” with them. Maybe I’d announce their names, play some music, call the play-by-play action and let them feel like their heroes on TV. Well, I got that chance. Completely unknown to them, the coaches lined them up on the field as we blared the National Anthem. And as if it were rehearsed, they all yelled “Play ball!” in unison and cheered all the way to the dugouts. Perfect start!

I didn’t anticipate what God was about to show me though as each batter stepped to the plate. Every time I announced their name, they responded with unimaginable pride like I’ve never seen. Some threw their hands in the air, some bowed, some couldn’t stop smiling as their families cheered. In fact, by the second inning, some wouldn’t even step up until they heard the booming sound of their name in the air. One young man even pointed to me as to say “You know what to do. Hit it!”.

Then it dawned on me… the sound of your name. The glorious sound of your own name and being known and recognized!

Not many things are better than hearing someone calling your name to cheer you on and let you know they love you. Just like Norm from Cheers, for a moment, you step into the spotlight feeling as if you’re unstoppable and even, just maybe… unforgettable.

The Spirit spoke to me that morning, not necessarily in words I could hear, but in words that spoke to me just as loud. Here it is.

But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.

“I have called you by name”! Can we think about this for a second? God Almighty calls YOUR name. The Creator of the Heavens and Earth calls YOUR name. The same God who put on human flesh and took the guilty verdict for you shouts out YOUR name! If you don’t get the weight of this, read that verse over and over until you do!

God tells us, “I’m throwing the greatest head to head game in history and I want you on my team.” He has a position for you to play and a jersey for you to wear. The field is ready and Hebrews 12:1 tells us “we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses” ready to cheer you on.

When times get tough, it’s easy to feel like we’re just benchwarmers, the backups to those MVPs who seem to play with great success. It’s easy to feel like the ones in the dugout who are kind of forgotten as the game goes on. But it’s important for us to remember that in the midst of our struggles, God knows your name. When it seems like no one else cares, God knows your name. In the 9th inning, when it all seems hopeless, He knows your name.

Sometimes the game feels long, especially when we seem to be losing. But keep your ears open and be ready to step up to bat. You play for the greatest coach ever and you are an MVP in His eyes.

John 10:3 “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

Earl

20140213-123824.jpg

The legendary Mick Jagger once said, “Time is on my side”. Some of you just sang it in your head, some of you just realized what time it was and that you are running late and have so much to do. Lots of people would disagree with Jag’s philosophy and see time as a stresser and a nemesis. Think about how many times you’ve heard someone say “If only there were more hours in a day.” or something similar. This article is to help you at least feel like there is and make the most of every minute.

I don’t claim to be “great” at many things, but for some reason, time management is a super-power of mine. Without trying, I just discovered that I have a unique ability to get tons of stuff done in small amounts of time. This isn’t one of those “I work better under pressure” things. It’s a “work better so I don’t HAVE pressure” thing. Let me share 3 of the things I use that keep me productive and allow me to keep pace with the clock.

1. Do it Now!
This one seems simple but, when you make it a habit, even in small things, it’s a beauty. You get an email that needs a response; do it now. Something laying on your table needs to be put away; do it now. You see the floor needs swept; do it now. You get the idea. So often, we fall victim to that word “procrastination” and it actually just works against the clock and your schedule. All we’re really doing is building a pile of stress we have to deal with eventually. Even if it’s the little things, just do it now!

2. What can I do while I’m waiting?
This concept is my golden nugget! I LOVE this one. My previous job required me to occasionally work in filing. We would scan barcodes, check some info and then slap a label on it to be filed away. The mandatory “rate” was 35 per hour. Well, my super-power kicked in and I discovered a few things I could do while waiting for the computer to do ITS thing. I had free time and a free hand so why waste either? This concept catapulted me into the most hated guy in filing because I began cranking out 75 an hour! Managers loved me and co-workers despised me as I became the new “trainer” and rates went up.

I use this concept every single day. As I wait for the rice to cook, I unload and load the dishwasher. As I sit in the car repair shop (literally writing this in the lounge of Kia!), I work on sermons or blogs. What can you do while waiting? Ask yourself that question every time you find yourself in a “hold”. You’ll be surprised how much you get done, or even how much you get ahead.

3. Eat the frog!
I learned this one from a Pastor named Nelson Searcy. I’m not sure it’s his original idea but, it’s phenomenal and has changed how I think. It’s similar to the first one I listed but different in it’s context. Imagine you have a desk full of things to do and one of them is to eat a live frog. Nothing in you wants to do it (I hope) but it HAS to be done. So you put it off; over and over and over, doing other stuff first. The problem is, it never goes away. He sits there and you see him out of the corner of your eye, knowing it’s inevitable. His croaking becomes distracting and it’s hard to focus on the task at hand.

We all have that “frog”. The phone call you dread making, the email you don’t wanna respond to, the mandatory thing you hate to do most. It sits there and nags at us and in turn, makes us LESS productive because it steals our thoughts and motivation. Eat the frog! Do it first, get it done and move on to the things you would rather be doing, with full focus.

Ephesians 5:15-17 says “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Time is a gift from God. It’s a gift we are expected to be good stewards of. Trying to squeeze in family, work, ministry and anything in between is tough. I get that. But I truly believe that if you walk in wisdom, you’ll breath easier and actually, just maybe, have some time for yourself. Give it a shot!

Do it now!

20140203-102422.jpg

As a kid I had lots of things I was really in to. The pattern went like this: music, breakdancing (seriously, I was a great head-spinner), skateboarding, BMX, surfing, bowling, bodybuilding, then back to music. Looking back, most of these things came by way of fads or trying to keep up with what my buddies were in to. They weren’t necessarily something I was passionate about. I was easily planted and then transplanted into whatever was popular at the time, like most people. It’s okay to have hobbies and spend time doing things you deem fun, but the danger comes when we allow this pattern to become inescapable. God never intended for us to live as weak-minded and unstable people, tossed around by outside forces. Check out what Scripture says about people who refuse to live like this.

Psalm 1:3 “They are like trees growing beside a stream, trees that produce fruit in season and always have leaves. Those people succeed in everything they do.”

Our life depends on our roots! What are we tapped in to? Where are we getting our life source? Roots are the difference maker! Here’s why.

1. Strong roots provide nourishment
Psalm 1 paints this picture of a tree, full of color, full of fruit, full of life. But why? Because of where it’s planted. It’s roots are always close to and pulling from a source of health and nutrition. Now watch this!

Colossians 2:6,7 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

2. Strong roots sustain you
Jesus never promised a pain-free life, coated in Narnia. Us Christians are actually more susceptible to Satan’s attacks than non-believers. So what will sustain you when life kicks your butt? What keeps you from freaking out when a job ends, a marriage struggles, when you don’t make the team or pass the test? If your roots are not planted firmly in Jesus, good luck thriving and growing through the harsh elements of this world. Check out Matthew 13, “Parable of the Soils” for Jesus’ insight to that.

3. Strong roots will stabilize you.
Think about a tumbleweed. It used to be a striving plant at one time. It became dried up by outside elements and snapped off it’s dead roots. Now the wind blows it wherever it wants. Are you in danger of becoming Satan’s tumbleweed? Has your previous root system failed only to let him blow you into an addiction, an affair, a crooked business deal, a group of friends you shouldn’t be involved with? That same Psalm speaks of this in verse 4.

Psalm 1:4 “That isn’t true of those who are evil, because they are like straw blown by the wind.”

Or what about this one?
Proverbs 12:3 “No one is established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved.”

It’s so critical to have strong roots that keep us in place when Satan kicks up a storm capable of knocking us off our foundation. It literally is the difference between life or death, striving or wilting, standing tall or toppling over.

One last thought on the stabilizing power of roots came from a story I saw about the California Redwoods. I was amazed at how trees that were 300+ feet tall, some very narrow and having a root system that only reaches around 10 ft down and on average about an inch in diameter, could stay standing. How???? I learned that the roots of these Redwoods grow together. They are so intermingled that they support each other! What a beautiful picture of what the local church should look like! Supporting each other with our roots tied together in small groups, events, prayer and love. If you’re not part of a local church, you’re missing out on the strength of a forrest of others holding us up when we are at our weakest.

I’ll end with this question, “What does your life look like right now?” Honestly? Dry, lifeless, fruitless, withering, struggling? Maybe it’s time to do a soil sample and be transplanted, Maybe it’s time to get your roots buried deep into Jesus, the wellspring of life, bringing forth stability, vibrant color and fruit just like He intended! Roots make all the difference.

John 4:14 ” But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

20140128-183324.jpg

If you haven’t read “Matt the Bird” part 1, do that first. I’ll wait.

Welcome back. Several months ago, I purchased a bug zapper for our back porch. We live on what some people call a “lake” and others call a giant retention pond. Either way, it’s a breeding ground for mosquitoes. I’m convinced that this body of water is a portal straight from Hell to unleash these demonic creatures to punish us. Florida ain’t all beaches and sunshine folks.

I set up the insect electric chair and read them their rights as each one that night paid the price for their crimes. It was amusing and captivating and I was proud of my leadership in protecting my family. However, what happened the next morning shook me… it shook me deep. On cue, in flies Matt! Only this time he didn’t land on my window. He landed right on top of the new zapper. I can only imagine his amazement as he stared at the pile of dead bugs like he had just found the bird version of Golden Corral. Think about it. Imagine walking into your favorite restaurant to find piles and piles of free steak, perfectly cooked for you!

As I marveled at his return, he suddenly began to shove his little beak into the light! I pounded on the window (true story) and yelled at him as if my own child had run into the street (slight embellishment). I didn’t know if it was dangerous or not but, the thought of what could happen to him devastated me. He flew away, seemingly unharmed and probably really, really satisfied. Immediately God reminded me of this truth found in 2 Corinthians 11:14 “… even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

Our enemy is a master chef with the ability to wrap up the most damaging delights in tantalizing displays. He lays out a table spread worthy of a page in Home and Garden, lures us in and we fill our bellies on his chocolate-covered sin. What seems like a blessing leaves us doubled over, sick to our stomachs and vowing to never come back again. But he knows we’ll get hungry and weak, ready to fulfill our selfish desires and return to the table, ignoring the danger of our own gluttony.

Jesus said in Luke 11:35 “Make sure the light you think you have is not actually darkness.” How do we do this? I mean, we wouldn’t fall for it if we knew it would harm us… at least most of us wouldn’t. How do we know what lies underneath the luring beauty of what we can’t look away from? How? We pray. We seek God’s wisdom in our relationships, in job opportunities, in our selfishness and even in the small decisions that seem unimportant. We pray that God will reveal who the true “chef” is behind the plate set before us.

Matt the Bird may have to learn the hard way, but we don’t. The next time you get hungry, the next time you smell steak, ask to talk to the chef. Sometimes it’s worth asking for the recipe!

John 6:35 “Jesus replied, ‘I am the bread that gives life! No one who comes to me will ever be hungry.”

Earl Henning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These blogs were originally going to be introductions or “my heart” behind a new series or upcoming sermon. Instead, I’ve noticed they are happening when certain events inspire me to write. Today was one of those events. I got a text from my wife at 7:45 am that I needed to get up to the hospital immediately. One of our church members (and friend) who had been battling a terminal illness was about to lose the fight. She passed away as I was just 5 minutes from arriving. I stood in the hall with the family as they wept and clung to each other and my heart just broke.

This isn’t my first experience with this sadly to say. As a Pastor, I get a front row seat to watching families ravaged by the most heart-wrenching events life can throw at you. In my years of ministry, I’ve stood in shock with a family as a 16 year girl went “septic” and passed away after a simple tonsil surgery. I led a memorial service for a church family of four who tragically died in a plane crash while traveling to see family for Christmas. I clung to a young man and his family as he unexpectedly lost his father that morning. I stood speechless on the phone while hearing a wife tell me that her husband had just taken his own life. I just recently sat in a room with a family as they received the “official” diagnosis of advanced cancer. Today was another one for the collection of horror stories.

On my way home I felt the Lord speaking to my heart about these events that I need you to hear. Recalling all of these moments, I can’t remember one person, one family, mentioning between their tears, the accomplishments and achievements of the ones they had just lost. No one talked about their portfolios, their trophies, how they were named CEO or Homecoming Queen. No one commented on their corner office or being “salesperson” of the month or the amazing house and cars they had. None of that mattered anymore. In fact they would trade all of that for just one more day with them.

James, an author of a book in the Bible, says in James 4:14 “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  A mist… did you catch that? Here today, gone tomorrow. So my question I guess, is what are you doing during that “mist”? What are you chasing? What gets your focus, your attention? What do you pour your time, energy and passion into? Are your goals in life displayed on a pay stub or by what sits in your driveway? Are you willing to “back burner” the very people who will stand and weep in the hall over losing you? I’m not saying a desire for the finer things in life is bad, unless that desire BECOMES your life.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes how he had it all; houses, servants, gardens, women, extreme fame and fortune. He says there was nothing he withheld from himself. He had accomplished what everyone could only dream of. But listen to his astounding view of it all in 2:11 “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind…”. Towards the end of the book (11:8,9) he then says this “However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all. But let them remember the days of darkness, for there will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.” 

I used to hate that stupid saying they put on everything “Live, Love, Laugh”. I thought it was corny and a lame attempt at sounding inspirational. But after this morning and recalling all of those events, I’ve had a change of heart. I think that’s what Solomon is actually saying too. My friends, I’m asking you to take a hard look at your life right now and figure out what your chasing after?  I’d hate to stand in a hall one day with your family knowing that you have “chased the wind” only to finish up empty-handed. Our friend Sandy lived, loved and laughed. Now it’s our turn.